Sunday, June 14, 2015

Book Review: Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star.

The new book ANN BLYTH: ACTRESS. SINGER. STAR. will be published this Thursday, June 18th.

It's a biography by Jacqueline T. Lynch, who's been blogging since 2007 at the outstanding Another Old Movie Blog. Regular readers here know how much I admire Jacqueline's writing, as I regularly link to her work in my weekly link roundups.

ANN BLYTH: ACTRESS. SINGER. STAR. is the culmination of Jacqueline's "Year of Ann Blyth" in 2014, in which she dedicated her blog to exploring Blyth's career in great detail. Since I also love Ann Blyth, I couldn't be more enthused about Jacqueline's new book, and it was an interesting and enjoyable as expected.

As with the blog series, the book focuses on Ann Blyth's public career. This rather private actress's personal life is outlined in broad strokes -- a very serious back injury as a teen, the early deaths of her mother and older sister, her religious faith, her happy family life married to Dr. James McNulty -- but the emphasis is a detailed exploration of Ann's work in film, radio, theater, and television.

It's a fascinating look at an actress whose prodigious talent is perhaps only being fully recognized in retrospect. Ann Blyth's sheer versatility, ranging from the venomous Veda Pierce to the singing soprano of KISMET to delightfully funny comedienne, plus her chameleon-like ability to change her voice and body language from role to role, may have played a part in her not being as well remembered today as some other stars.

The lack of availability of many of Blyth's films on DVD, plus the actress's own view of her career as just one aspect of a full life, may also have played a role in Blyth being somewhat "under the radar" today, though she surely has long had her admirers among classic film fans. Jacqueline's book will hopefully cause many more people to take a look at this multitalented woman whose career encompassed just about every possible aspect of 20th Century entertainment.

Ann's career and performances are all examined in rich detail, and, just as she does with films at her blog, Jacqueline also puts Ann's career experiences in the context of entertainment and world history. She also uses periodicals of the times to give an "as it happened" perspective on how Ann's career was chronicled as it unfolded.

I loved reading Jacqueline's analyses of Ann's performances, revisiting those I've seen in my mind's eye while hoping to see those which are new to me. I'm particularly happy that Jacqueline shares my love for ONCE MORE, MY DARLING (1949), calling it "one of the funniest comedies of the era." I couldn't agree more, and as with so many of Ann's films, it's a shame this movie is not on DVD. I suspect it's been a good two decades since it was last shown on TV. It's a frustrating example of the difficulty audiences have seeing so much of Ann's excellent work.

I highly recommend this book, which should be enjoyed not only by those wishing to learn more about Ann Blyth but by those interested in the evolution of 20th Century entertainment. Ann did it all!

For more information on the background of this book, John Greco has posted an extensive interview with the author at Twenty Four Frames.

ANN BLYTH: ACTRESS. SINGER. STAR. is 656 pages, including a filmography, selected listings of theatrical, radio, and television appearances, a select discography, and end notes. The book is nicely illustrated with a variety of film stills, candid shots, publicity materials, theatre ads, movie magazine covers, and more.

The book is available in paperback or for Kindle from Amazon, CreateSpace, and Etsy as well as directly from the author.

Full disclosure: The author kindly quoted me at some length in the book, describing Ann Blyth's 2013 appearance at the TCM Classic Film Festival, along with using a photograph I took on that occasion. It was a pleasure to be able to offer this small contribution to Jacqueline's book.

Sincere thanks to Jacqueline T. Lynch for providing a .pdf copy of this book for review.

Note: This book is the first title reviewed from my 2015 Summer Classic Film Book Reading List.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Fantastic review! I love Ann Blyth and definitely want to spend more time exploring her movies. This book is definitely a must-read for me. I wonder if Ann Blyth was involved in the making of the book.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Raquel! I'm sure you would enjoy the book.

Jacqueline reached out to Ann via a rep but was told Ann respectfully declined to participate. That would have been really nice for the added insights, but it's still a wonderful and very thorough book.

Best wishes,

12:02 PM  

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